Going to get up as many posts about Big Ten teams and their personnel as I can. Doubtful I will get through all the teams as I have in the past. I think last year I only got to 2, so I'm going to shoot for more than 2. I haven't seen every team play yet, so I'll start with a team that looks a lot like last years team and has played some meaningful basketball. Hopefully as we get to the holiday tournaments and Big Ten-ACC challenge there will be enough games to get a better sense of some of these teams.
Michigan lost a lot of players but brings back the core of last years team. Lavert graduated but he only played in 15 games last year anyway. Lost to transfer are Chatman, Albrecht, Doyle and Dawkins, but none was a major contributor with Dawkins leading the way with 15 minutes per game. Michigan is running a 9 man rotation, and is playing bigger than in years past. They seem committed to playing 2 forwards this year when they have run a lot of 4 guard lineups in the past.
The backcourt is solid and familiar. Returning are 3 upperclassman guards that all played more than 28 minutes a game last year. Walton Jr, Irvin, and Abdur-Rahkman will lead this team in scoring in some order. Irvin and Walton dominate the ball and Abdur-Rahkman plays off the ball more. It's the final run for Walton Jr and Irvin and they will be in the conversation for 3rd team all-Big Ten at the end of the year. 2 freshman back them up in highly ranked PG Simpson, and Watson, a bigger SG. Neither looks like an instant superstar but they won't need to be with 3 veteran guards in front of them. In the Marquette game Walton Jr sat for most of the first half with 2 fouls, leaving Simpson to play his most minutes. However Abdur-Rahkman brought the ball upcourt most of the half, and Irvin dominated the ball in the halfcourt. In 18 minutes Simpson had 2 assists and 2 turnovers with only 1 shot attempt. The freshman should improve as the season goes on, but they just need to give the other 3 a rest at this point.
The frontcourt is the biggest change for this years MI team as they are actually playing more than one big guy. DJ Wilson has emerged as a major contributor playing the 4. He gives them an athletic forward unlike anyone they have had recently. As a sophomore he played in just 24 games averaging less than 7 minutes per, but he is averaging 30 minutes a game this year and has moved into the starting lineup. He is also off to a great start on the defensive end, averaging 9.5 rpg and 2.5 blocks. The other starter is sophomore Wagner, but he plays fewer minutes than senior Donnal. Wagner is a big space eater, but is not very mobile. The fourth frontcourt player is Robinson, who still plays more like a guard, taking most of his shots from 3 and not giving them much in defense or rebounding. Donnal and Robinson look like the same players they were last year- offense first guys who will extend a defense to the 3 point line.
Playing bigger usually leads to better defense. Big guys rebound and their presence clogs up the driving lanes, so just having them often helps the defense. MI may be better on defense this year but not drastically so, as Wilson is the only one of the 4 forwards that is a good defensive player. Last year MI was 10-8 in the Big Ten and barely made the tournament. They struggled against bigger teams and didn't have a lot of quality wins, but they beat up the bottom of the league. They went 8-0 vs bad teams, and snuck out a couple wins against Maryland and Purdue. The key this year is an 8 game stretch that starts in Mid Jan and includes 3 home and homes vs UW, MSU, and Indiana with a game vs OSU too. I expect this team to be about the same as last years team, prediction 10-8.